Cultural Corridors of South East Europe


Intangible Heritage Masterpieces

Intangible Heritage Masterpieces

The gradual expanding of the content of the notion cultural heritage and the inclusion of larger inherited resources – tangible and intangible – led to the appearance of new approaches to understanding, protecting and respecting our cultural heritage. In 1972, when the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage was adopted by the UNESCO General Conference, a number of Member States expressed interest in safeguarding the intangible heritage. As a result, UNESCO organized several actions in favour of that form of cultural heritage.

While the physical cultural heritage is designed to survive long after the death of the person who produced or commissioned it, the fate of the intangible heritage is much more closely related to its creators as it often depends on oral transmission. Many elements of the Intangible Cultural Heritage are endangered, due to effects of globalisation, homogenizing policies, and lack of means, appreciation and understanding which – taken together – may lead to the erosion of functions and values of such elements and to lack of interest among the younger generations.

Intangible Heritage in South East Europe

As the guardian of cultural heritage, UNESCO seeks to extend the promotion of the oral and intangible heritage, in a geographically balanced way. The new approaches to the cultural heritage, which involve the recognition of communities and groups as those who identify, enact, recreate and transmit the intangible or living heritage, found their culminating point in the adoption of the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2003.
According to the Convention, the intangible cultural heritage - or living heritage - is the mainspring of our cultural diversity and its maintenance is a guarantee for continuing creativity. The Convention manifests:
Oral traditions and expressions including languages as a vehicle of the intangible cultural heritage;
Performing arts (such as traditional music, dance and theatre);
Social practices, rituals and festive events;
Knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe;
Traditional craftsmanship.
The 2003 Convention also establishes the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. At present the Intangible Heritage Masterpieces List includes 90 proclaimed masterpieces.

Information sources: UNESCO official website; Intangible Cultural Heritage Information Kit, UNESCO 2004